Questions about the Technical Writing field

Subject: Questions about the Technical Writing field
From: rbilbao -at- us -dot- amadeus -dot- net
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 12 Sep 2002 14:36:30 -0400

1. How/why did you become a professional writer?
I was increasingly dissatisfied with my Instructional Technologist job and
through some introspection I realized I was happiest while writing. When a
Technical Writer position in my group opened up I went for it. That was 5 months

2. What is your job title? job description?
Technical Writer. I write all kinds of manuals for my company's travel
distribution software products and on occasion I edit training materials.

3. What percentage of your time is spent writing, editing, or presenting?
So far, I have spent more time learning new applications than anything else. I'm
sure that's not representative though, since I'm fairly new. I haven't been
required to do any presenting yet and I don't know that I will.

4. What types of writing, editing, and presenting do you do?
See above.

5. Who are your audiences and what are their needs?
My audience is the segment of the travel industry that subscribes to our
services. Their basic need is to be profitable.

6. What things do your audiences expect from your documents or
Simply put, I think they expect answers.

7. What is your biggest writing-related challenge on the job?
Getting started. I'm used to emergencies and putting out fires, and fixing
things for people yesterday. Technical writing for me is completely laid back. I
thought I would enjoy a change of pace but it's actually taken some adjustment.
Well, technically, that's not writing-related, but it is a challenge.

8. What about deadlines? How do they influence the way your write on the
I'm used to cut-throat deadlines so the ones I have currently are a walk in the
park for me. In general, I like deadlines, I think they're necessary, they
provide structure. I also think workers have more power to negotiate deadlines
than they realize. Once you agree to a deadline though, you've given your word
and you should honor it.

9. What standard and predictable processes (writing techniques,
organizational templates, heuristics for brainstorming, etc.), if any, do you
employ in profession-related writing?
Well I'm still feeling my way around so I figure it'll be a good two or three
projects until I can really define my preferences concretely.

10. What are the frustrations/rewards of your work?
My frustrations come from editing. My co-workers hate spell check, apparently!
As for rewards, it's probably too early but I do have one getting started guide
that is coming together nicely. A blank page suddenly becomes a tool that's
going to help someone somewhere do something. I think that's pretty cool.

11. What advice do you have for students?
Hm. I need more advice than I can give but I will tell you, tech writing is a
lot less actual writing than you think! Oh yeah, I have a good one: whatever you
do, join this list!

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